Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Which mobile phone should I buy?

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Getting on for two years ago I bought a Samsung Galaxy S5 tied to a contract with Three UK (so the phone had all of Three UK’s cruft on, as well as the Samsung TouchWiz). It was one of the flagship phones when I bought it, and it can still hold its own, but as the end of the contract approaches, I am trying to decide which phone to get next. Some of the considerations are…

  1. Software upgrades.

    This is one of the most significant ones. Once Google has released a new version of software, it has to be ported to the S5 by Samsung, adding all their bells and whistles, and then Three have to release it for the handset. I check for updates pretty regularly, and the latest for my S5 on Three is Android 5.0. Google may have released 6.0, but I haven’t even got 5.1.

    There have been minor security patches issued, but I’m not confident they cover everything that is in the newer software releases.

    When it comes to an Android phone, this will catch me out with just about anything other than the Google Nexus phones, which providers are best? I’ve heard OnePlus mentioned, and maybe the issue will be much better regardless of the phone provider as long as I get an unlocked.

  2. Earphones

    At the start of the year I bought a set of Bose QuietComfort 20 earphones. There are two models, one with a remote control that’s compatible with Android, the other with an iOS compatible control. I bought the iOS-compatible version, expecting at the time that I’d be getting an iPhone next.

    It’s a significant investment, and if that steers me towards an iPhone, then it means buying a 6S, as the rumours are that the 7 will no longer have a 3.5mm headphone jack. The problem with that, of course, is that the 6S is now six months old, and I’d like the phone to last a couple of years.

  3. Mail Client

    I hate all mobile mail clients. More to the point, I pretty much hate all mail clients. On my desktop I vacillate between Mac Mail, Outlook and, more often than not, ‘mutt’. I’ve never found a mobile mail client that works well. iOS Mail is the nearest there is, although ‘Nine’ on Android seems to be shaping up quite nicely too. I’ve tried quite a few — BlueMail, Type Mail, Gmail client, Outlook Mobile, the Samsung client on Android, K9.

  4. Ecosystem lock-in

    I have an iPhone for work, I use a MacBook Pro daily, and I’ve also got an iPad Air 2 and a Mac Mini at home. I’m therefore very wary about ending up locked in to the Apple ecosystem. My Galaxy S5 keeps me aware of this, and encourages me to use solutions that can work across platforms (Office 365, Evernote, Simplenote, Google Docs, Dropbox).

  5. Smart watch

    I don’t have an Apple Watch, I’ve (still) got a first generation Pebble. It works with both Apple and Android, and the battery lasts a week. Next.

  6. Price

    I can’t bring myself to pay too much money for a device that realistically doesn’t have a life of much more than two years and is susceptible to being stolen or dropped or subject to some other damage (whilst I haven’t yet cracked a phone screen or had one lost or stolen, I know it will happen some day, especially now that I’ve written this).

At the moment, the candidates are:

Phone Storage Screen Price (SIM-free)
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 32GB 5.5″ £639.99
Samsung Galaxy S7 32GB 5.1″ £519.99
Google Nexus 5X 32GB 5.2″ £339.00
Google Nexus 6P 32GB 5.7″ £449.00
64GB 5.7″ £499.00
HTC 10 32GB 5.2″ £569.99
iPhone 6S 64GB 4.7″ £619.00
iPhone 6S Plus 64GB 5.5″ £699.00
LG G5 32GB 5.3″ £499.95
Huawei P9 32GB 5.2″ £449.99

I’m sure I can get better prices than these, but this is just from a quick glance on Expansys, Carphone Warehouse, Google Shopping, or the Apple store. I’ve chosen more storage for the iPhone because unlike the other devices, there’s no room for an SD card (although the Nexus 5X also has this failing, there is no option for more storage). If I buy from the Google Store, there is also a £50 discount available on the 5X and a £70 discount on the 6P until 6th May.

It’s making the 6P look rather attractive, but it does have the previous generation of processor (Snapdragon 810 rather than 820), even if the camera is more modern (1.55um pixels, but no OIS).

Coffee cups — safer in a bag

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Travelling back on Virgin Trains from a meeting in Birmingham, I popped to the on-board shop to buy a coffee for two pounds and five pence of our sovereign sterling monies.

As usual, the coffee comes in a cup with a lid which was firmly attached and requires tearing a plastic tab to drink from it. The assistant then placed the cup in a paper bag, to which I said that it wasn’t really necessary as I could carry it (I wasn’t getting anything else).

I was told that I couldn’t do that, due to “safety.” In retrospect I wonder what she’d have done if I’d just walked off and left the bag on the counter, but being the obedient member of the populace that I am, I just toddled off back down the carriage, coffee safely ensconced in a paper bag so that I couldn’t tell if it had fallen onto its side or not.

Protected: Connectivity … as long as it is when we say so.

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

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Train Ride through the Peak District.

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Given I usually write about trips to far-flung places, this is just a quick mention of a train ride yesterday morning from Manchester to Sheffield. Straight through the Peak District and Hope Valley it had some spectacular views of snow-capped mountains and fields, and towards the end through one of the UK’s longest rail tunnels, the Totley Tunnel. As commutes to meetings to, it wasn’t a bad one at all.

Stimulating the economy

Monday, November 24th, 2008

The Chancellor has announced his plans for breathing life into the economy, a 2.5% drop in Value Added Tax, but paid for by increases in National Insurance contributions from 2011.

I can’t imagine many retailers are going to drop prices from £9.99 to £9.78, for example, they’ll just pocket the difference.  Meanwhile, I’ll still have to pay the additional NI contributions, and further tax increases on alcohol, tobacco and petrol.

Who is this supposed to be encouraging to ‘go out and spend?’

The News Cycle

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Quote from an interview on BBC News 24 just now:

“Jim, what can you tell us about this story.”

“Well, not alot, there’s nothing on the BBC news website at the moment.”

Surely no further comment is needed.

Uncontacted Tribes

Friday, May 30th, 2008

This has to be the news story of the day for me. I find it incredible to think there are still tribes out there that have had little or no contact with the outside world. Part of me still thinks this story is a hoax, but I really want to think it is true.

Google/YouTube

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Last weekend there was a widely reported outage on the YouTube video sharing website. It happened the same day that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Pakistan had been instructed to prevent their customers from accessing the site.

So, why did this cause a problem for Internet users around the rest of the world?

To start off, here’s a little introduction to how the computers on the Internet know how to reach each other. Every computer has an Internet Protocol address (IP address). This is usually represented as four numbers separated by dots, e.g. 192.168.12.34, but at the computer level it is a single number between zero and about four billion. Each ISP advertises the addresses it is responsible for by using the lowest number of the range and the length of the range. So, for example, I might say I am responsible for everything from 192.168.12.0 to 192.168.12.255.

This advertisement of which addresses an ISP is responsible for is known as a routing advertisement, and is advertised using a protocol called the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). ISPs speak BGP to each other so they all know who is responsible for which range. Usually only one ISP is responsible for a particular range of addresses, but it is possible to punch holes in that by advertising a smaller range of addresses. For a particular computer, the narrower range always takes precedence over the larger range.

For the range of addresses relevant to the problem last week, YouTube advertises a range of about a thousand addresses, but to prevent access to YouTube, one of the ISPs in Pakistan claimed to be responsible for about 250 of those addresses. This claim was only meant to be used internally to the ISP, and it would not have been a problem if it was kept internal, but the engineer made a mistake and the routing advertisement was passed onto other ISPs, until most of the world saw it. As it was a smaller range of addresses (a “more specific” route advertisement), everyone started to send YouTube traffic to the ISP in Pakistan, but of course, it didn’t know what to do with them and so the traffic was dropped and nobody could access YouTube.

YouTube tried to fix this by advertising ranges of about 130 addresses to try to be even more specific, but most ISPs don’t listen to advertisements of less than 250 addresses because there is the potential for there to be just too many of them. In the end, it took the ISP of the Pakistan ISP to block the route advertisements for everything to start working again. This was achieved within a couple of hours, which may have been a long time for YouTube to be unreachable, but isn’t bad when you consider the distance involved between all the parties in question.

Whilst the ISP is Pakistan should not have advertised this address range, the larger ISP that provides service to them should not have believed it either, so knowing that accidents happen, the blame lies with both of them. However, the mechanisms for knowing which route advertisements to believe are far from perfect, and there is a large degree of trust in fellow ISPs involved.

The problem is well-known, and work has been on-going to try and provide better ways of authenticating route announcements for some years, but we are still a little way from that being a reality. In the meantime, know that ISPs that were being less strict on what they believe from other ISPs are trying to tighten that down, but if things do go wrong again, rest assured that engineers at most of the larger ISP are talking to each other trying to spot any problems and fix them quickly.

A Day Off…

Friday, February 15th, 2008

Yesterday I was starting to think that I’d made a mistake. Going to an exhibition in the Natural History Museum during half-term, was I mad? I made sure I got there shortly after the museum opened at 10am, and luckily, whilst the museum was busy, there was no queue to get in and few of the families were heading to the same room as I was — the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. I’ve been the past few years, and it is an hour well spent. Lots of good photographs, some by professionals, some by amateurs, some by kids. By the time I left, the museum was heaving, and the queue at the front door stretched down to the front gates.

Next, I strolled down through South Kensington, somewhere I was once a regular, but now somewhere I haven’t been for a year or more, to a cinema on Fulham Road to watch the latest Coen Brothers film, No Country for Old Men. Through the adverts and trailers I thought I’d struck it lucky as I was the only person in the cinema, but a couple of minutes into the film another couple walked in and sat a few rows behind me. Still, three people in a cinema, you can’t get much closer to a private screening. Perhaps I should make all my cinema visits at midday on a Friday.

The film was great. Stunning cinematography of the Texan landscape, interesting characters, and a few unexpected twists. If you like other Coen Brothers films, I can thoroughly recommend it.

Then it was back to the flat and just about time for a short ride as the sun set over Essex with a superb range of purples and oranges in the sky.

Not a bad day, perhaps I should take more days off. I’ve only got another 30.5 to use up before the end of March.

Lucky seven.

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Today marked seven months and seven days since the little knock on my leg, and it was also the day I picked up my new bike. The weather wasn’t completely on my side, so I didn’t manage to get many miles under my belt, but it felt good to be back on a bike. It certainly feels much smoother than my old Bandit, and I’m looking forward to doing a bit more distance on it.

Seven also seems to be quite a lucky number for the passengers on the 777 that crashed at Heathrow today. I’m sure they’d rather not have been on board that plane at all, but if it had landed even a hundred metres shorter the outcome could have been very different.

I done gone did it.

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

The plan for yesterday was quite simple. I’d head into town, have a quick browse in Motoden, then catch the tube up to Arnos Grove and hand over the readies for the Honda Deauville that has been advertised for the past couple of months.

On the way to Motoden, I passed a Yamaha showroom that I hadn’t seen before, George White on Shoreditch High Street. Nothing very interesting, so I moved on. When I got to Motoden, I had a quick walk around, saw the more expensive Deauville they had there, but as I was about to wander out the salesman asked if I needed any help. I explained what I was looking for, and he asked if I’d considered a CBF600SA. I hadn’t, as I’d always thought of them as bland bikes, and that’s coming from someone considering a Deauville, but on the other hand, that might work to my advantage when it comes to insuring it. For about £3500 I could get a CBF600S with ABS that was only a couple of years old. Bearing that in mind, I headed off to Arnos Grove.

It took a little while to find 1st Line Motorcycles, but that’s my fault for not taking enough notice of where it was relative to the tube station beforehand. When I did get there, the Deauville was sitting in front of the showroom with “SOLD” scrawled across the windscreen in marker pen. I wasn’t too disappointed, as I can now see what sort of Deauville you get for £2,700. The crossmember on the swingarm had quite a bit of rust, and it looked its age. I wandered around the showroom, but there weren’t that many other used bikes.

The main problem I had with buying the CBF was that I had no idea how much it would cost to insure. It had never featured in my plans, so I’d not spent any time finding out how much it would cost. On the way back to the tube station was an internet cafe, which I was about to pop into when I realised I could just head back to the office. Somewhat surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad, so after few minutes thought, including reading MCN’s rather downbeat review, followed by the far more complimentary user reviews, I figured I would go for it.

I walked back to Motoden and spoke to another of the salesmen for some more details on the three CBFs they had in stock. They were all about the same age, but one, whilst it had higher mileage, also had heated grips and a hugger fitted. Apparently it had just been used as trade-in on a VFR and had been owned by the chairman of the Honda Owners Club and well kept and maintained. In retrospect I should have tried to get a couple of hundred off for the high mileage, but it is probably too late for that now. I pick it up on Thursday.

Now to sort out the insurance…

The time has come.

Friday, January 11th, 2008

It has been seven months since my little accident. The fracture clinic has signed me off, the physiotherapist has signed me off.

My new boots, trousers, jacket and helmet arrived a couple of days ago. That only leaves one thing — something to sit on.

I’ve been doing a bit of shopping around, and the insurance is going to sting me, but the best bet looks to be something like a five year old Honda Deauville. Cheap(ish) to insure, capable of large mileage, and reliable. If I can keep that for two or three years, the no-claims will build up and I should be able to think about getting something newer, whether it is more powerful or not.

Blogging from my desktop…

Monday, January 7th, 2008

My blog entries are approximately as frequent as postings on Mil Millington’s “Things That My Girlfriend and I have Argued About” list.

This is just a test of a small applet running on my desk which will make it even easier for me to avoid writing anything.

Progress (finally).

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Today I had the latest of my visits to the Fracture Clinic, which have been happening every four weeks since I left hospital. The routine is fairly standard, I go in full of hope and optimism, convinced my leg is just about fixed, then come out a little later, disappointed to find it isn’t . The previous appointment four weeks ago was perhaps the worst example of this, as it marked four months since the accident, I was feeling good, but for the first time I saw the X-Rays of my leg, the gap that still existed between the bones, and the extent of the initial damage. The registrar was concerned and said that if there was no change by the next check-up, they might have to consider a minor operation to remove two of the four screws that hold the intramedullary nail in, which would cause an increase in movement and encourage bone growth.

Today I arrived at the clinic again full of optimism. The receptionists were having a bad day, and the notice board behind them said that only one consultant was in and there were long delays. I settled in with a book and waited for the nurse to call me and send me to X-Ray. Down at X-Ray the radiographers were standing around the desk so I got in straight away. The radiographer was a kiwi with an interest in bikes, so we had a bit of a chat whilst he was copying the image onto the computers (no film to develop nowadays), but mentioned in passing that I’d really done a good job on the leg. This worried me a touch, as I figured it meant I still had a way to go. I went back to the clinic and waited to be called in to the registrar.

A few minutes later this happened, and he said that there was a lot of new bone growth over the last four weeks and showed me the X-Rays to prove it. There is a large “cloudy” chunk around the fracture site, which is new bone growing. He asked if I was still using the crutch and I told him I was (which isn’t a lie, I don’t use it all the time, but I do use it), so he said I don’t need to any more. Result. I’ve never been happier leaving the fracture clinic than I was today. One more visit, but not for six weeks, and that could be the final one. I’ve also got permission to fly long-haul again, so metal detectors notwithstanding, my new passport needs to be christened with a stamp. Travelling to and from Amsterdam just doesn’t cut it.

I think I’m almost there…

National pride

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

England won at rugby (against the USA), football (against Israel) and cricket (against India) today.  All topped off with the Last Night of the Proms.  If I wasn’t Welsh, I’d be proud to be English!  Instead I’ll settle with being satisfied to be British.

Rugby World Cup

Saturday, September 8th, 2007

It is Rugby World Cup time again, and whilst I’m all for more rugby union on the TV, I’ve got a couple of issues at the moment.  The first is that as any fule does kno, rugby must be on the BBC.  It just isn’t the same on the ITV, the commentators don’t have the experience, and there’s very little half-time analysis when you’ve got to fit two commercial breaks in.  I don’t know which channel broadcast the last RWC, but that is because I was watching it on Star Sports.

Which brings up the other issue.  The return of the RWC means it is four years since I was away for my little trip.  Trying to watch the first couple of group matches on the Muslim east coast, during Ramadan, at the start of the monsoon season, including at an almost-deserted Cherating beach where I managed to persuade the only bar that was open to show a match.  Then across to the west coast.  Malacca, Cameron Highlands, and the finals on Pankgor along with a couple of Irish girls that were following the same route.

I was thinking about using this as an excuse to indulge in some thought about what has changed in those four years, but maybe I’ll save that for now.

 

Rainforest World Music Festival

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Speaking of the Rainforest World Music Festival, it looks like it kicked off yesterday with a group from Bario.

Penans

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

By chance, I listened to ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ on Radio 4 this morning. Purely coincidentally it had an item on the threat to the Penans of Sarawak from logging in Borneo (BBC have an MP3 of the show, but I don’t know how long it will be available, the item is 17 minutes into the file). The Penans that the journalist visited were close to Bario, where I spent two months as a teaching assistant, and may have been some of the ones that I had seen when I was there, or later when I was writing my Guide to Long Lellang, a Kelabit village, but with several Penan settlements nearby such as Long Main and Long Sait which I walked to. I hope it may have been slightly dramatised, but it painted a very bleak picture for the future of the people as more and more of the Borneo rainforest is torn down.

It was the second mention I’d heard of Sarawak on Radio 4 this morning. In ‘Excess Baggage’, the Rainforest Music Festival, which takes place near Kuching at the Sarawak Cultural Village.

Who am I kidding?

Friday, July 13th, 2007

Of course I am going to ride a bike again.

I am in no rush to repeat the experience of the last few weeks, and more importantly, I don’t want to put friends, family, and the emergency services through it again, but it isn’t that easy to stop riding a motorcycle. There is still so much I want to do on two wheels. Travelling around the UK, touring through Europe, and hopefully, venturing further afield. Even just riding into work in the morning and arriving with a grin on my face. Somebody mentioned something quite appropriate, which is if I don’t get back on a bike now, I’ll only do it again in 10 years time and regret all the time I’d missed in between. It is interesting to note that it is the people without a bike that ask “are you going to ride again?” Other riders ask “when are you going to ride again?”

I’ve found out that the bike has been classified as a write-off. I was insured fully comp, so I should get a settlement for the bike, but even just taking that into consideration, my next insurance quote is going to be a fortune. On top of that I need to replace all my gear, as none of it has made it back home. Most of it was cut off me, but the helmet and my left boot were given to me. You don’t ask a helmet to save you twice, so that went, and what use is one boot? Even if I could have bought the matching one, it was pretty much worn through on the toe anyway, and that was on the leg that wasn’t hurt. Bearing that in mind, I guess my next bike has to be a cheaper runabout for a few years until the premiums start to come down again.

Maybe an advanced riding course would also be a good investment.

Reporting the news, or part of the news?

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

One of the problems of spending alot of time at home with the TV on, is that you spend alot of time at home with the TV on. I still haven’t succumbed to mainstream daytime TV, but I do leave the TV on News24 in the background (the remote is broken, and it is an old TV, so getting up to turn it off is a major event). I think we can all be happy that Alan Johnston was released in good health, but the BBC didn’t half ham it up. Pictures of their correspondents all over the world with pictures or posters of Alan, or congregated outside Television Centre. Today, one of the major items on BBC news, including the introduction to NewsNight in the evening, has been that the Corporation has apologised to Her Majesty and Annie Liebowitz over some mis-editing of a clip, and some bravado by a producer, that suggested to other press organisations the Queen had walked out of a portrait session during her last visit to the US. It is vaguely newsworthy, but “breaking news” that has to be covered as the first item at the top of the hour? Not really. I do note it was covered on Channel 4 News at 7pm, but 47 minutes into a 55 minute programme. That may be a bit more like it.